The Honkers


1h 42m 1971
The Honkers

Brief Synopsis

A temperamental rodeo star tries to win back his family.

Film Details

Also Known As
Honkers
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Western
Sports
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 3 May 1972
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Synopsis

A temperamental rodeo star tries to win back his family.

Film Details

Also Known As
Honkers
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Western
Sports
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 3 May 1972
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Articles

The Honkers -


It took a long time for James Coburn to become a star. Beginning on TV in the fifties, he amassed well over 100 individual credits before he finally became a star in the 1966 spy spoof, Our Man Flint. Before that, he built up an impressive resume with supporting roles in such classics as The Magnificent Seven (1960), Charade (1963), and The Great Escape (1963) and looked as if he would become a marquee name. He did but not as big as expected. One reason for that was Coburn's pesky habit of not choosing roles based on how much money he thought they might make but, rather, and rather unusual for a star in his day, how much they interested him. As a result, Coburn made more "small" movies than most stars ever have or ever will. You might call Coburn the first "Indie" star as most of his credits read like a list of obscure, independently financed personal films. The Honkers (1972) is no different. In fact, it fits the mold perfectly.

The Honkers was directed and co-written by Steve Ihnat, financed by two small production companies, and shot entirely in Carlsbad, New Mexico which was a lot cheaper than filming in the desert around Los Angeles. Given Coburn's star power after the Flint movies and The President's Analyst (1967), he could have chosen any movie but he chose The Honkers instead and with Lois Nettleton and Slim Pickens, created a low rent slice of life around the unlikely plot line of an over the hill rodeo star losing everything.

The story begins with Lew Lathrop (Coburn) in a mobile home having a fling with a married woman while his best friend Clete (Pickens) waits outside in a pickup truck, ready to whisk him away on a moment's notice should the husband return home. He does, of course, and Lew finds himself jumping out the window, rushing to the truck, and avoiding buckshot as Clete drives him to safety. Moments later, we learn he's going back to his hometown to reunite with his wife, Linda (Nettleton), who wants nothing more than to divorce him. Given what we just saw, it's no surprise.

The movie takes the three characters, including a son that Lew and Linda have, and follows them for a few days while Lew attempts to get some money and some pride back by competing in the local rodeo. We find out about what we figured we would, that Lew's a self-centered teenager who is thoroughly unequipped to be a giving husband or responsible father. It's not that any of this is unexpected, it's how the characters deal with it that makes the difference.

The two characters most directly involved with Lew, his best friend Clete and estranged wife Linda, are played superbly by both Slim Pickens and Lois Nettleton, respectively. Pickens was already a bit of a legend in Hollywood by that point but Nettleton was relatively unknown except to TV audiences. She stayed in television for most of her career and won Emmys for her excellent work twice. Also of interest, a very young Anne Archer makes her movie debut as the little sister of a former friend of Lew's, now all grown up and making the moves on her childhood crush.

The director, Steve Ihnat, had worked as an actor for years, including with James Coburn in In Like Flint in 1967. His most famous role was as Garth in the Star Trek episode Whom Gods Destroy, but he was also known for countless other appearances in TV shows of the sixties, from Gunsmoke to Mission: Impossible. In 1970, he finally tried his hand at directing with the experimental film, Do Not Throw Cushions Into the Ring, starring himself and his wife, Sally Carter-Ihnat. It was never released. His second effort was The Honkers and with James Coburn as the star, it did get released thanks to a distribution agreement with United Artists. This gave Ihnat the opportunity to promote his first film in the hopes of getting it distribution as well. He travelled to Cannes during its famed annual festival to lobby for just that when he was stricken with a fatal heart attack. He was only 37 years old.

The Honkers didn't achieve much success at the box office and even now it's mostly unknown. It did give Slim Pickens and Lois Nettleton a chance to show their skills as actors in a way most studio productions wouldn't have and Coburn got to play the kind of marginalized character that big stars weren't supposed to play. It would have been nice if their fine work had been seen by more people. But the real tragedy of the film isn't that it didn't do well at the box office, it's that so much promise can be seen in it from director Steve Ihnat, who sadly never got to evolve as a director beyond this second effort.

Producer: Arthur Gardner, Jules Levy, Arnold Laven Director: Steve Ihnat Writer: Steve Ihnat, Stephen Lodge Original Music: Jimmie Haskell Cinematography: James Crabe Film Editor: Tom Rolf Cast: James Coburn (Lew Lathrop), Lois Nettleton (Linda Lathrop), Slim Pickens (Clete), Anne Archer (Deborah Moon), Richard Anderson (Royce Owens), Joan Huntington (Rita Ferguson), Jim Davis (Sheriff Potter)

By Greg Ferrara
The Honkers -

The Honkers -

It took a long time for James Coburn to become a star. Beginning on TV in the fifties, he amassed well over 100 individual credits before he finally became a star in the 1966 spy spoof, Our Man Flint. Before that, he built up an impressive resume with supporting roles in such classics as The Magnificent Seven (1960), Charade (1963), and The Great Escape (1963) and looked as if he would become a marquee name. He did but not as big as expected. One reason for that was Coburn's pesky habit of not choosing roles based on how much money he thought they might make but, rather, and rather unusual for a star in his day, how much they interested him. As a result, Coburn made more "small" movies than most stars ever have or ever will. You might call Coburn the first "Indie" star as most of his credits read like a list of obscure, independently financed personal films. The Honkers (1972) is no different. In fact, it fits the mold perfectly. The Honkers was directed and co-written by Steve Ihnat, financed by two small production companies, and shot entirely in Carlsbad, New Mexico which was a lot cheaper than filming in the desert around Los Angeles. Given Coburn's star power after the Flint movies and The President's Analyst (1967), he could have chosen any movie but he chose The Honkers instead and with Lois Nettleton and Slim Pickens, created a low rent slice of life around the unlikely plot line of an over the hill rodeo star losing everything. The story begins with Lew Lathrop (Coburn) in a mobile home having a fling with a married woman while his best friend Clete (Pickens) waits outside in a pickup truck, ready to whisk him away on a moment's notice should the husband return home. He does, of course, and Lew finds himself jumping out the window, rushing to the truck, and avoiding buckshot as Clete drives him to safety. Moments later, we learn he's going back to his hometown to reunite with his wife, Linda (Nettleton), who wants nothing more than to divorce him. Given what we just saw, it's no surprise. The movie takes the three characters, including a son that Lew and Linda have, and follows them for a few days while Lew attempts to get some money and some pride back by competing in the local rodeo. We find out about what we figured we would, that Lew's a self-centered teenager who is thoroughly unequipped to be a giving husband or responsible father. It's not that any of this is unexpected, it's how the characters deal with it that makes the difference. The two characters most directly involved with Lew, his best friend Clete and estranged wife Linda, are played superbly by both Slim Pickens and Lois Nettleton, respectively. Pickens was already a bit of a legend in Hollywood by that point but Nettleton was relatively unknown except to TV audiences. She stayed in television for most of her career and won Emmys for her excellent work twice. Also of interest, a very young Anne Archer makes her movie debut as the little sister of a former friend of Lew's, now all grown up and making the moves on her childhood crush. The director, Steve Ihnat, had worked as an actor for years, including with James Coburn in In Like Flint in 1967. His most famous role was as Garth in the Star Trek episode Whom Gods Destroy, but he was also known for countless other appearances in TV shows of the sixties, from Gunsmoke to Mission: Impossible. In 1970, he finally tried his hand at directing with the experimental film, Do Not Throw Cushions Into the Ring, starring himself and his wife, Sally Carter-Ihnat. It was never released. His second effort was The Honkers and with James Coburn as the star, it did get released thanks to a distribution agreement with United Artists. This gave Ihnat the opportunity to promote his first film in the hopes of getting it distribution as well. He travelled to Cannes during its famed annual festival to lobby for just that when he was stricken with a fatal heart attack. He was only 37 years old. The Honkers didn't achieve much success at the box office and even now it's mostly unknown. It did give Slim Pickens and Lois Nettleton a chance to show their skills as actors in a way most studio productions wouldn't have and Coburn got to play the kind of marginalized character that big stars weren't supposed to play. It would have been nice if their fine work had been seen by more people. But the real tragedy of the film isn't that it didn't do well at the box office, it's that so much promise can be seen in it from director Steve Ihnat, who sadly never got to evolve as a director beyond this second effort. Producer: Arthur Gardner, Jules Levy, Arnold Laven Director: Steve Ihnat Writer: Steve Ihnat, Stephen Lodge Original Music: Jimmie Haskell Cinematography: James Crabe Film Editor: Tom Rolf Cast: James Coburn (Lew Lathrop), Lois Nettleton (Linda Lathrop), Slim Pickens (Clete), Anne Archer (Deborah Moon), Richard Anderson (Royce Owens), Joan Huntington (Rita Ferguson), Jim Davis (Sheriff Potter) By Greg Ferrara

Quotes

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Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971